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General News of Friday, 4 March 2011

Source: GNA

Citizens have the right to know how much countries earn

Accra, March 4, GNA - Mrs Hannah Owusu-Koranteng, Deputy Executive Director of WACAM, , says 93citizens have the right to know not only how much their country earns from the sale of its natural resources but also whether this amounts to a fair deal". The Deputy Director of WACAM, a Ghanaian mining advocacy and human rights nongovernmental organisation, who was speaking at this year's 5th International Conference of Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Paris, said if the organisation were to remain credible and relevant it would need to extend its scope to areas such as contracts and licences, according to a release from the conference.

The EITI is a coalition of governments; companies; civil society groups; investors; and international organisations that sets global standards for transparency in oil, gas and mining industries. EITI rules establish the methodology countries need to follow to become fully compliant. The standards promote revenue transparency at the local level.

Radhika Sarin, International Coordinator of Publish What You Pay (PWYP), a global civil society coalition, urged EITI to take bold steps to ensure it remained robust and meaningful over the next two years.

He said: 93The EITI has been a ground-breaking initiative, which has put revenue transparency firmly on the agenda, but it now needs to embrace changes which will ensure that transparency leads to true accountability."

=A0 PWYP also called on the EITI to embrace complementary financial reporting regulations such as stock exchange listing rules and international accounting standards which would reinforce the impact of EITI.

"The US Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of July 2010 which requires all oil, gas and mining companies registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission to report their payments to foreign governments on a country-by-country, and a project-by-project basis will greatly strengthen EITI implementation processes and encourage other countries to join the initiative," said EITI Board member Dorjdari Namkhaijantsan of the Open Society Forum in Mongolia.

"We heartily welcome recent announcements by the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy and by the UK Government that both France and Britain will also push for oil, gas and mining transparency laws in the European Union and our hope is that progressively more countries with major capital markets will adopt similar rules," Mr Namkhaijantsan said.

Commenting on the news that 11 countries out of 35, which now implement the international initiative have been designated as EITI Compliant, Anthony Richter of the Revenue Watch Institute and member of the EITI's multi-stakeholder Board, said: 93It is clear that the EITI standard for transparency is achievable, the challenge is now for the EITI to ensure strong protection and participation of civil society, embrace new and complementary financial reporting requirements, and widen the scope of the initiative to include issues such as contracts and licensing. These factors will ensure that all citizens are able to benefit from the vast revenues generated from the oil, gas and mining industries."

Jean Claude Katende, of the Association Africaine de D=E9fense des Droits de l'Homme in the Democratic Republic of Congo and an EITI Board member, spoke of the strides the EITI has made in ensuring the free and active participation of civil society in EITI processes as evidenced by strengthened rules for the initiative in this area. However, Mr Katende also struck a cautionary note: 93Civil society campaigners have often suffered harassment for championing the cause of greater openness in the natural resources sector. It is central to the continued credibility of the EITI's international standing that civil society activists are able to work freely and without fear of interference or threat."

Mrs Owusu-Koranteng has been nominated to represent Civil Society Organisations globally on the Board of the EITI International Secretariat for the next two years. 4 March 11

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